The town of Wilton has foreclosed on the former Forster Mill property, and officials are eying a potential $400,000 federal grant to tear down the blighted and potentially hazardous industrial building.

The foreclosure effectively ends town efforts to force the property owner to tear down the building in the heart of downtown.

While the town’s lawsuit seeking an order of demolition from the owner of the mill, Adam Mack, is still active as of Monday, Town Manager Rhonda Irish said the town lost faith in the likelihood that Mack, of Portland, would fix the problem anytime soon and foreclosed on his ownership interest.

Irish said the town’s first objective was to get Mack to take responsibility for the property and tear it down, but over the past year that option became more unlikely as the two parties failed to reach an agreement.

“Our number one option was the owner was going to take care of it,” said Irish. “The owner always said he was going to take care of it. He did not ever come up with any positive steps for taking care of it. Then he filed a personal bankruptcy. It looked like years before anything would happen.”

Mack’s attorney, Michael Boyd, did not return a request for comment. An office assistant for Boyd said he was away from the office until Thursday.

The town filed a suit against Mack in August 2013 in an attempt to force him to demolish the mill.

Mack previously said he would sell metal from the building to help pay for the demolition, which he estimated would cost $250,000 to $350,000. A consultant for the town, however, said all valuable metal was stripped from the structure during a botched demolition effort in 2011.

The 2011 demolition was stopped after workers reported improper removal of asbestos from the building. The mill had not been inspected for the presence of asbestos before demolition work began, a violation of Department of Environmental Protection rules. While cleaning up the remaining mess, an asbestos removal expert called it the worst asbestos site he had seen in Maine in 30 years.

Before the workers doing the demolition work reported the violations, Downeast Construction, owned by Ryan Byther, removed and sold piping worth an estimated $250,000 from the site. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration levied a $154,200 fine for Byther’s company’s actions, and it was removed from the project.

In November 2012, Mack’s company, Wilton Recycling, was ordered to pay a $7,500 penalty to the state for the company’s role in the asbestos hazard to employees.

Now that the town owns the property, Irish said officials will be looking at options for cleaning up the property and tearing the building down, though it will take research and time before any formal plan would be available.

One option for funding could come from a $400,000 Community Development Block Grant the town is applying for to use toward economic development projects that combat blight in downtown. The grants are through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and are administered through the state.

Irish said that at a public hearing last week on the grant application, residents who attended voiced support for using the money to help tear down Forster Mill and to make improvements in the downtown streetscape. Irish said the town’s application will include $100,000 for the mill’s demolition and $300,000 for streetscape improvements.

The town is competing with other municipalities for the money and doesn’t expect to know if it will get the money until later in the spring.

Wilton has also applied for a hazardous materials assessment of the property through the Maine Department of Environmental Protection municipal site assessment program. Irish said that if the building is accepted into the program, the building and land would be assessed for hazardous material that needs to be cleaned up.

“It’s one step at a time,” said Irish.

The Forster Mill became a property of the town after Wilton foreclosed on the industrial buildings for unpaid property taxes. Irish said Mack owes a total of $9,585 in property taxes, including $3,300 in 2012 property taxes.

Irish said there was a lien on his 2012 taxes, which expired March 17. The town sent notices to about 50 owners facing foreclosure, and Mack was one of two property owners who did not respond.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]


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